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Free Culture Movement

Movements/Initiatives for Free and Open Culture

The quest for open and free culture is not necessarily new, and a number of different groups and sub-movements exist. There is a lot of overlap between the movements and some of the differences are subtle. This page provides an overview of a few of the major initiatives and some examples of how they have implemented their philosophies.

What is the Open Access Movement?

Open access symbol
Open Access Symbol

The beginnings of the open access movement in academia can be traced to decreased access to scholarly journals and articles caused by cost increases and declining or static library budgets. Librarians have played a part in the movement by alerting faculty and encouraging the formation of alliances like The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition which promotes open access to scholarship. The open access movement supports information sharing for the common good of all. Currently there are two main parts to the movement. The first relates to self-archiving where authors publish in a journal but also make their materials available online. The second is open access publishing where authors publish in open access journals. (Suber, 2006)

Video: Open Access 101

Open Access 101, from SPARC from Karen Rustad on Vimeo.

What is the Access to Knowledge Movement?

The Access to Knowledge movement is a set of principles that have emerged from different social movements who are responding to the changes created by new technology. Their concern is the control over knowledge. They seek to improve access to human knowledge, information, Knowledge-embedded goods (technical knowledge related to things such as drugs, hardware), and tools for producing knowledge embedded goods. (Balkin, 2006) A draft treaty was called for by Brazil and Argentina to promote access to knowledge and information sharing as well as a call "to promote developing countries’ access to publicly funded research in developed countries." (Intellectual Property Watch, 2005)

What is Libre Knowledge?

Libre knowledge is knowledge that is available so that users can read, listen to watch in order to learn, adapt and share derived works for the common good. The idea fits Richard Stallman's definition of free software but applies more broadly. Libre can also be used as in Libre Resources and Libre Learning- freedom to learn and Libre Communities. "Knowledge for all, freedom to learn, towards collective wisdom." (Libre.org)

What is the Free Culture Movement?

The free culture movement is a social movement that "promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works in the form of free content by using the Internet and other forms of media." Supporters of this movement are opposed to copyright laws which they feel are excessively restrictive and which impede creativity.
In Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity Lessig states, "There has never been a time in history when more of our "culture" was as "owned" as it is now. And yet there has never been a time when the concentration of power to control the uses of culture has been as unquestioningly accepted as it is now." This quote directly reflects the opinions of the supporters of the free culture movement at the time of its inception. The free culture movement builds upon the ideals of a social and political movement called the free software movement.

Examples of Free Culture/Open Access/Libre

Students for Free Culture (SFC)

SFC is a group of students and young people from over 40 colleges and universities worldwide working to enlist their peers in the free culture movement.The group collaborates with Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge,and other free software and media reform groups. (http://freeculture.org ) SFC chapters

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Founded in 1990, EFF's mission is to confront issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights. With the expertise of lawyers, analysts and activists they fight on behalf of consumers and the public to defend their digital rights. As a donor funded, non profit organization, they bring and defend lawsuits and fight against bad legislation. ( http://www.eff.org )

Public Knowledge

"Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture." Founded to promote innovation and the rights of consumers, they fight to stop bad legislation "that would slow technology innovation, shrink the public domain, or prevent fair use."
(http://www.publicknowledge.org )

Creative Commons

See more on our Creative Commons Page


According to founder Wayne Macintosh, "WikiEducator believes learning materials should be free (read “libre”) for all students of the world." They provide free training for teachers to develop Open Educational Resources (OER)with open software and licenses that allow freedom to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute education materials without restriction.
From their website: "WikiEducator is a community project working collaboratively with the Free Culture Movement towards a free version of the education curriculum by 2015." See WikiEducator Content Listing


Their mission is to advocate, use, and develop open resources for education and to empower member organizations to make open educational resources more effective, efficient, and ubiquitous.They advocate use of open source and free software, open texts and lessons, and open curricula for betterment of all.

Open Source Education Foundation


How does Open Source Relate to Freedom?

Desmond Tutu Talks about Freedom and the Importance of Open Software

From the Desmond Tutu's above welcome message to the Digital Freedom Exposition

"In a digital world there are many threads to our hard won liberty. There are those who take our ideas and lock them up for business gain. There are those who take the fruits of our human mind and lock them up, dishing them up to us in metered amounts for a fee that locks most of our people out. And there are laws that are usurped for business reasons and changed to rob society of its own rights. There are software patent systems that in other countries that have created patent code wars and produced companies whose sole business model is to patent the obvious and wait for someone else to have the same idea and then attack them. This makes it risky for the young people of South Africa to create technology businesses out of their innovations and stifles innovation that could lead to development and improvements to the quality of life of our people. To paraphrase Edmund Burke who said 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of those who take away our freedoms in the digital world is for organizations like UWC to do nothing.'

But there our people like our keynote speaker professor Lawrence Lessig and Jimmy Wales who are not content to do nothing. There is a whole movement that is rapidly gaining momentum arising out of the work of people like Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman, creating socially responsible businesses out of the very freedoms that we are talking about. Free software and open source, free and open resources for education, new ways to create and share cultural artefacts such as music, writing and art. All these are changing the world for the better."

Artists for Freedom of Expression

International PEN: Promoting Literature, Defending Freedom of Expression

Free the Word
Pen Poster 2008

"In time of division between countries, International PEN is one of the rare institutions to keep a bridge constantly open' Mario Vargas Llosa (PEN website)

Founded in 1921, PEN today has 145 Centres in 104 countries. The international community of writers, journalists and poets believes that literature and freedom of expression are keys to empowerment and understanding others. Their mission is to promote and defend freedom of expression and to improve access to literature internationally, nationally and regionally. PEN does not fit entirely under the Free Culture Movement, but they do espouse some of the same values especially those related to freedom of expression and providing access to literary work to build community.
"International PEN brings together writers, journalists, poets – all those using the written word to promote ideas – in the common belief that it is through this sharing that bridges of understanding can be built between peoples. These bridges cross political, geographical, ethnic, cultural, religious and other divides. It is for this reason that the protection of the right to freedom of expression – the freedom to express ideas without fear of attack, arrest or other persecution – has been at the heart of International PEN's work since it was formed in 1921." (PEN website)

Free Politics


Brazil has become a major prom3ter of the free-culture movement. In response to its citizens being accused by the United States of pirating approximately US $1Billion from U.S. copyright interests, the Brazilian government responded by asserting that Brazilians send close to $1 Billion to the United States each year to pay for software licenses. Declaring that “this proprietary stuff is a bad thing all around, and that Microsoft’s rights should be respected”, the Brazilian government urged Brazilians everywhere to switch to free software. The Brazilian government has since launched initiatives that will “establish free software studios, built with free software, in a thousand towns and villages throughout Brazil” (Lessig, 2005).

British ​Movement to Open Politics: Open Up Now

Open Up Now is a non partisan UK group with no desire to become a political party. Not backed by a media outlet, charity or other special interest group they describe themselves as a people from all diverse backgrounds coming together to help improve a dire political environment.With a common belief that Britain, should be proud of its politicians and political system, they seek to "promote real, positive and long-term changes to the way our country is run; to increase transparency, fairness and accountability in elections and government; and to challenge the culture of patronage that defines our political system today." (http://www.openupnow.org/about-us)

Next up Criticisms of Free and Open Culture